Rocchetta Mattei: the secret castle near Bologna you have to visit

Just an hour's drive from Bologna there's a place where a miracle medicine was founded, a hippogriff greets you at the entrance and where you can get married within an Esher's painting.

​No, I have not exaggerated with Pignoletto, it's Rocchetta Mattei, a unique castle between the hills, ideal for adults and children, that will make you stand jaw-dropping.

Cesare Mattei and a new medicine

Born in Bologna in 1809 from a rich family, Cesare Mattei was among the founders of a bank, a deputy in Parliament and a close friend of the Pope. The key event which marked his life and led Rocchetta Mattei to birth is definitely his mother's death. That event produced in Cesare a deep mistrust in traditional medicine and he began to study alone an alternative medicine: electrohomeopathy.

This treatment is based on homeopathic-like granules enhanced with vegetable electricity that Mattei believed to be able to capture in his fluids. His purpose was to restore the balance between body electric charges and bring the painful part to a neutral state.

The success of these treatments was enormous and immediate: they were sold around the world, especially in China and India, and he founded the first real drug multinational company, also cited by Dostoevsky in 'The Brothers Karamazov'.

History of Rocchetta Mattei

In 1850 Mattei purchased the land where stood the ruins of the ancient fortress of Savignano, on which lay a castle that belonged to Matilde of Canossa.

In the same year, he laid the foundation stone of the castle that would have called Rocchetta, where he settled permanently in starting from 1859 and personally followed the construction.

After Cesare's death, Rocchetta Mattei didn't live a happy time: during the Second World War, it was occupied and severely damaged by German troops. Then in the 60's it became a restaurant and hotel and closed in 1989 with the owner's death. It was reopened to the public in 2015.

At the entrance of Rocchetta Mattei you are greeted by statues of a lion, hippogriff (yes Harry Potter' fans, definitely him) and harpies, but Christian, pagan and astrological symbols and references are endless.

​Rocchetta Mattei's design is based on Copernican's planets constellation: clock tower is the center (that would be the Sun) and the halls are the planets that revolve around it.

Art and mysteries

After the entrance courtyard, you meet the '90s' room', where Mattei expected to celebrate 90 years with 90 other people, also 90 years. Too bad he died before, at the age of 87 (a lot for that time).

But the most surprising place is the chapel which houses Mattei's tomb: it is a miniature reproduction of Cordoba's Spanish cathedral with striped columns and a beautifully decorated ceiling.

Nothing here is what it seems, from the slanting columns to the used materials, it seems to enter into an Esher's painting. Styles alternate from room to room, passing by the representation of Alhambra's courtyard in Granada (really!), to the room in which Mattei received his patients with pentagonal ceiling and floor, as alchemists containers.

Among the thousand secrets of Rocchetta Mattei there's also a diamond, perhaps kept in one of the pyramids that make up Mattei's lab ceiling. No one knows if it's really hidden there, but if you decide to get married in Rocchetta Mattei (yes you can!), your love can be celebrated between the mysteries of a unique place.

Why visit Rocchetta Mattei

With the beautiful village of Dozza, this castle is one of my favorite day trips from Bologna. It's just one hour by car from the city center and in the middle of the Appennino hills.

If you visit Bologna with kids they will love the mysteries and secrets of this place.
If you don't, you can learn more about the unique life and ideas of Cesare Mattei.
Have you been there already? What do you think about it? I'm looking forward to knowing your opinion


Rocchetta Mattei
Strada Provinciale 62, 40030 Grizzana Morandi BO
Tel: 051 916845 - 051 6730311

Opening time
Weekend 9:30am-1pm 3pm-5:30pm with reservation required at

10€/adult 5€/kid

Related post

  • Certosa cemetery bologna Cloister third

    Certosa Cemetery in Bologna: the silent museum you have to visit

    It may sound a macabre suggestion, but Certosa Cemetery is one of the most interesting museums in Bologna. A silent one, huge but without indications and souvenirs store: a hidden gem that deserves to be visited.

  • Tagliere of meat in Bologna

    6 Things to know before visiting Bologna

    It's easy to fall in love with Bologna.It happens to me every day: under a portico, wandering at night in Piazza Maggiore or riding fast through my secrets streets.​​To live Bologna without a hitch, however, there are a few helpful things to keep in mind. 1. Bologna is the perfect location to visit Northern Italy Bologna has always been in a strategic position. In the past to trade, now to tr

  • Day trips from Bologna

    From Florence to Mantua: my 6 favourite foodie day trips from Bologna

    Bologna is also in a strategic position in Italy. So if you're looking for a day trip by car or train, in less than 1 hour you can be in many amazing cities of Emilia Romagna and not only. These are my 5 favorite places to spend a day outside Bologna between art, culture and great food.

Home page icons22

Tasty newsletter

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter and get a free culinary travel EBOOK about Modena